If you weren’t already in this business, would you enter it today?
Has the headline question crossed your mind? The industry colleagues listed below took the challenge and replied with their thoughtful and honest answers. We are all in this propane space on one level or another, working toward a future that holds promise, sustainability, and profitability. We recognize the challenges and reap the benefits of the rewards. Would we choose it all over again in today’s world?
The VERBATIM column poses open-ended questions to some of our colleagues monthly. Adopted from a familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to reply via e-mail. Their personal thoughts below are in response to the question posed above. These are their replies reported verbatim.
YES! NO. MAYBE? – RESPONSES FROM COAST TO COAST
I love my business and I love our industry. However, I cannot imagine starting a propane company from scratch today. In California, the number of government tax and oversight agencies is egregious and the over-lap in regulations is absurd. I am grateful that my father started this business during a time when it was relatively easy to launch a business.
Ted Johnson Propane
Baldwin Park, Calif.
In California, knowing what I know about the liberal agenda in Sacramento, I would definitely think long and hard about opening up here. The state is committed to a non “carbon-based fuel” energy system. We already have rolling electrical blackouts in the summer because our grid system cannot keep up with demand. They are removing hydro-electric dams which will take more supply out of the grid. Regrettably, California sets a bad example for many other states that want to copy our policies in the name of climate change. The WPGA is fighting hard to slow the progress of these IGNORANT policies and we appreciate the support of the NPGA, but we all need to join in this fight because these policies may be coming to a state you live in. We started our business with the intention of passing it on to our kids and grandkids. We pray it will still be here for our grandkids.
Shasta Gas Propane
Palo Cedro, Calif.
Although the bobtail business has its challenges, I can’t imagine myself in any other line of work. Every time that a truck rolls off the assembly line, I get a big smile on my face thinking about the joy that it’s driver will get when he climbs behind the wheel for the first time.
Yes, I would absolutely enter the propane industry today. The industry is ever evolving and continuously working through changes and challenges and that makes it a rewarding career choice. The propane industry is a fairly small industry in that, you have the opportunity to get to meet, know and work with some great people that become good friends. The industry obviously has technical aspects, but it is really a logistics-based business where optimizing resources to meet customer need is a daily focus. Good people, well trained and supported, make for happy customers and a very rewarding career.
Boyd H. McGathey
Energy Distribution Partners
The propane industry is facing some huge challenges, primarily from the environmentalists who want to do away with hydrocarbons altogether. However, there are still opportunities out there to exploit the weakness in those arguments. For a person in my shoes who recognized that potential, yes, I would take on that challenge.
National Propane Gas Association (NPGA)
Tinley Park, Ill.
My husband has been a propane marketer since 1970, and I began working with him in 1988. When I look back at how things have changed over the years, I have mixed feelings about whether we would enter this business today. While all companies face challenges, I think the whole business culture has changed. It is more difficult hiring employees who are loyal and want to work. With the current administration in office, I am concerned about their “no fossil fuels” plan. I don’t think I would get into the propane industry; but when I look at all of the good friends we have made through the years, I would have missed out on some great relationships!
McMahan’s Bottle Gas
Absolutely! I told my dad when I was twelve that I planned to sign his paycheck, a goal I would still be working toward if I were not already in the industry. I grew up in the propane industry and have always been drawn to the incredible people that so often feel like family.
I’m fascinated with this industry so I would say yes. I believe it’s the best time to be in this industry as the green new deal seems to be the current buzz along with the electrification of everything! Our industry has a great story to tell here. Propane is the cleanest alternative to gasoline & diesel and yes, cleaner than electricity! This dream of powering our entire world on electricity generated by the sun & wind is a misconception, to say the least. Propane can be the solution, along with working with other clean sources to keep us moving forward not only in production, but towards a healthier, cleaner climate.
Yes! Absolutely! With laser focus on the most updated technology and putting the right people in the right seats on the bus!
First off, I am not in the retail propane business, but I work with many clients who are, and I have been involved in the industry for more than thirty years. At my age, I would not enter into the business, however if I were 10 years younger, I would certainly consider it.
It’s just a great industry with local people serving local people in their communities. The companies I work with are their own work-family units and it typifies all that is good with family-owned small businesses. The current environment of low interest rates is an extra bonus for funding capital to enter the industry and consolidation opportunities are available. Yes, there is the new green deal and other challenges, however we have a great structure of associations to support us. Yes, if I could knock off 10 years (maybe 15) I would buy a bobtail.
Cetane Associates LLC
My short answer to this month’s question would probably be no, I would not go into the energy market today. If I were able to pursue my childhood dream, the one I went to school for and was my passion, I would be training horses, teaching people to ride and enjoying weekends at the Appaloosa Horse Shows across the country. However, a twist of fate caused Jimmy and I to let the horses and my dreams go in 1986.
After my husband Jimmy passed in 2010, I found myself at the helm of Proctor Gas and soon embraced the industry and its wonderful members, many of whom I now call friends. I’ve enjoyed my time learning and working, taking care of my customers and being more involved in community.
I remember vividly Jimmy telling me on our way home from South Carolina in September of 2010, he wasn’t having any fun anymore. That the energy business was changing, and it wasn’t what it used to be. I didn’t understand his comments back then, but I do now. I told our now Governor Scott, as he stood at my 50th Open House (2016) that our industry was facing a war and that I had never fought so hard to work for a living in my life!!!
I’m not afraid of work and I’m not afraid to stand up for what’s right but, having to fight every day to work for a living – well, that’s exhausting. So, knowing what I know now. I think I’d find something a little less stressful. I believe, at the end of the day we will win this battle on energy because we are a valuable piece of America’s energy. Am I young enough for this battle? I’m not so sure J
PROPANE IN THE 21st CENTURY
After decades of change, our industry faces the strongest headwinds of its 109-year-old existence. Positioning our abundant, low-carbon fuel as part of the solution for the globe’s prosperous future is our collective challenge. With a diverse group of both experienced and younger employees, owners, entrepreneurs and leaders we have strength in our common goals to demonstrate value and relevance of C3H8 derived from the ground or from biomass. Legislative and regulatory issues are potential looming threats. Learn what you can to be a part of the conversation in your area. NPGA and PERC are working together in this existential effort and each one of us can play a role.
Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates
This column was first published in the March 2021 issue of Butane-Propane News.